Kenya Announces Death Penalty for Poachers

Kenya is the natural habitat of numerous iconic animals, like cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, rhinoceros, and leopards, many of which are prime targets to poachers. It is illegal to kill the endangered animals in Kenya, and the Wildlife Conservation Act from 2013, carries a life sentence or fine of $200,000 for offenders.

Unfortunately, Najib Balala, the cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, says: “This has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching.”

Consequently, poachers in Kenya will now face a death penalty.

One Green Planet reported:

“Najib Balala, the tourism and wildlife minister of Kenya, recently announced that those who take the lives of innocent animals through poaching will soon face the death penalty in the African country. While this proposal hasn’t been officially enacted into law yet, Balala told China’s Xinhua news agency that wildlife poaching is on a fast track to becoming a capital offense.

While this measure may seem extreme, it is a last resort attempt to deter people from slaughtering Kenya’s rapidly decreasing wildlife population.

Balala reportedly said, “We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of U.S. $200,000. However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”

It is a fact that the animals are in peril, even though poaching has been on the decline as a result of the increased attention to conservation and wildlife law-enforcement efforts.

The number of black rhinos in Kenya is below 1,000, whereas the elephant population is hovering around 34,000. In 2017, poachers killed 9 rhinos and 69 elephants, which seriously cancels out the growth rate of the population.

According to the Independent:

“The move could put Kenya in conflict with the UN, which opposes the death penalty for all crimes worldwide.

UN General Assembly resolutions have called for a phasing-out of capital punishment, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights advocates its universal abolition.

Kenya’s tourism chiefs say poaching has been on a downward trend largely thanks to enhanced wildlife law-enforcement efforts and investment in conservation.

“These efforts led to an 85 percent reduction in rhino poaching and a 78 percent reduction in elephant poaching, respectively, in 2017 compared to when poaching was at its peak in 2013 and 2012 respectively,” the ministry said.

Nevertheless, earlier this month two black rhinos and a calf were poached at Meru national park.”

Poachers are attracted by the ivory tusks of elephants, which are highly valuable in the Far East. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) reported that up to 70 percent of illegal ivory ends up in China, where it sells for up to $1,000 a pound. Even though China banned it, black markets remain.

On the other hand, the horns of rhinos are believed to treat impotence, fever, cancer, hangovers and other medical ailments, and sell for about $30,000 a pound, which is more than gold.

AWF warns that “at current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime.” AWF also states that poachers in Africa “use high-powered technology and weaponry to track and kill many animals at once without being detected.”

That is why the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) intends to increase its number of wildlife crime prosecutors, which are currently only two for the whole country. The measure was enabled by a collaboration between Kenya’s national prosecution service and conservation organization Space for Giants.

According to Max Graham of Space for Giants:

“Not only can KWS catch wildlife criminals but now they have the capacity to ensure those criminals are convicted under Kenya’s robust laws. A ranger in the field should not have to experience the frustration of confronting a wildlife criminal they arrested a week earlier walking free again because of an acquittal. This is a critical step up in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade.”

Some rangers in Kenya started using infrared and thermal cameras to spot poachers and protect the remaining endangered populations, which are kept protected in sanctuaries.

Brian Heath, a conservationist who runs conservation group the Mara Conservancy, says:

“In the past, we would never have found these people,” “Now the poachers are saying it’s just not worth going out because the chance of getting caught is getting higher and higher. It has been a big deterrent. In other areas, like South Africa where most rhinos live, dozens of rhinos have actually been airlifted out of poaching-prone areas and into safer locales, like Botswana, where poaching is rare.”

Elephants and rhinos are also threatened by habitat loss, as nowadays, they only occupy about 19 percent of their historical ranges in Africa. Their natural habitats have been destroyed by human encroachment, including the building of roads, cultivation of crops, livestock production, and civil unrest.

These animals are incredibly important and beneficial to the environment so if we do not protect them, the world will suffer a devastating loss.

Many believe that the strict stance of Kenya against poaching will save these invaluable species, but AWF adds:

“Across the continent’s diverse wild lands, management authorities need data-driven solutions to enhance anti-poaching capacity to allow remaining priority populations to recover from previous, and current, crises. Meanwhile, community-level interventions must explore different economic opportunities that secure rather than destroy biodiversity as pressure on natural resources grows with increasing development, infrastructure, and urbanization.”

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